Ævintyr – Gjest Baardsen (2019) – Review

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RockmusicRaider is going to prison and takes a hike on a time machine at the same time. And no, the RMR deck crew is not about to be punished because of a blatant attack of blabbermouth. So far, no SWAT team has tried to break down our doors. And we survived pretty much all hacker attacks that constantly plague our server farm.

Have I confused you yet?

Imagine you take Gentle Knife and add a really stubborn, even eccentric streak to it. Sailing on a current so out in the Progressive Rock universe, it is almost alternatively avant-garde.

Then add a classical ensemble to it, and try to make sense of all that with downturned guitars and a subdued beat. And without any bombast or other undue shenanigans. So, can the idea straight away that we are going to cover some sort of eclectic piece of Symphonic Metal, you metallic posers of the trve faith. ‘Tis a different side of the rock multiverse.

The Norwegians from Ævintyr sent us that conundrum called Gjest Baardsen that kinda sounds like a square peg in a round hole. A very atypical record that connects rock with the chamber ensemble Trondheimsolistene. Marrying classics with rock or metal is of course nothing new. Many have tried, with some bands ending up in the sun, and others less so.

Gjest Baardsen first impresses with a rock-solid theme. The story of one of Norway’s most notorious criminals of the 19th century by the same name. One that used his time to become a writer in the abundant spare time he enjoyed over his 18 years tenure of dungeon spa. It appears that some of the lyrics on the record originate directly from Baardsen’s quill.

Ævintyr state that their style draws on Heavy Rock, but it must be a very light version of that, not the real meat and potatoes of this often rowdy genre. And this is a good thing. Because the somewhat delicate setting the band chose to present their criminal past with, would not survive abundant heaviness.

And for once, the mix between classical and rock is pretty well executed. They kept the bluster and pomposity of other bands out of the production altogether. Even to a point where the delivery turns almost frugal in style. And this is – again – yet another positive.

I also liked the liberal use of brass in Gjest Baardsen, which – for once – integrates well and doesn’t gripe. Even the classical parts – like the violins – won’t make this reviewer’s teeth hurt. And that’s an achievement right there.

We also took a liking to the female vocalist – Maria Moen Nohr – with her vibrant mezzo-soprano and her quiet and thoughtful style to support the album. Together with her male counterparts, we found the lyrics well lathered in some sort of Victorian springiness. And in line with the theme they chose.

Albeit that I sometimes regretted the even keel the record builds itself on. All tracks kind move along the established tracks and will not offer anything itchy, no hair out of place. All tracks kinda move on in a similar tonality and speed. Which is a pity, because without that you just make music, but you don’t build momentum. Even if Rygteflom gets a bit livelier than most.

So finally, the theme saved the record’s bacon?

Quite. If ever your metallic ears hurt and you need something a bit more reflective, then Gjest Baardsen may just be the record you need. But remember, Ævintyr created something so far out in the left-field that you need to start a fire, take a dram of your favorite spirit and concentrate on this decidedly short blurb of 37 minutes only.

The record again confirms that a theme solidly executed drives quality. This is one varied album. Something that takes courage to create and surely to market in an environment that is plagued by streaming services and ubiquitous pseudo Latino tunes.

So, raise your glass to a piece of a pretty cool, yet somewhat extravagant mixture of classical sounds and down-home rock. Alternatively tainted Progressive Rock. And what a welcome change it was for our ears, too.

Record Rating: 7/10 | Label: Self-Released  | Web: Facebook
Release date: 13 May 2019

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